So how did it all begin to take shape back in the day then? Well, if you were a rather poorly paid soldier, living in married quarters with everything that implies, buying your own food, paying your TV licence, (things you didn’t necessarily do as a single soldier in barracks) things progressed as fast as your wife let them….I started with a simple set of Mask Fins & Snorkel and that little lot cost me practically £100 from the local dive shop in Melksham…
It wasn’t so bad, I could borrow the Tidworth club dive kit to supplement my meagre contribution, that sometimes meant a poorer fit or somewhat dated equipment, configured in the best manner practical rather than anything cutting edge,
…….but it meant I could practice every week and I was generally first in the queue every Thursday night at the Tidworth kit store, and pretty much first in the Bulford pool after the 15 minute drive up from Tidworth too
It wasn’t really so long before I managed to scrounge enough from the budget to lay out a murderous £350 for my own stab jacket. There really was only One choice at the time, the AP Valves Buddy Commando….Yes there were other brands however anyone in the military dive circle at the time loved the more rugged construction of the Buddy, the quality was undoubtedly better than most other stabs and that meant a longer service life, at that price there was no real argument from me…..
It took another full year to be able to buy my own dive-suit and at £650 along with a Scubapro R190 regulator it was a huge step forward, the wife wasn’t amused, but if I wanted to have any real chance of keeping warm and getting into open water it was the only way to go….Tidworth SAC had no suits to speak of at the time, and wouldn’t have for another year or so, when an enthusiastic REME Major took the time to put in a bid for 10 full sets of new kit from the Army sports & recreational fund, no small task considering the lengthy justifications he had to write and submit as a bid proposal!
I was finally “there”….fully kitted and raring to go, the 7mm Beaver semi-dry was an awesome piece of kit to me, even in winter at 4′ in Horsea lakes I could manage 2 dives comfortably. I had initially toyed with the idea of a dry-suit, but they were another £300 that I didn’t have and to be honest, at the time, I didn’t really “get” why anyone wanting to scuba-dive….wanted to try to stay “dry”, it seemed kind of pointless and counter-intuitive to the whole idea of diving to me……..but then I was 28 or 29 at the time